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Jake ElmerEnglish 102Professor EdwardsJanuary 24, 2018Writing a Path         I faintly remember my first English class experience. Across the narrow halls of my elementary school were doorways lined with students work and various posters advising children to drink milk and exercise, as well as signs of our school colors with the names of teachers which correspond to their own classrooms. Most of my classes were in one room, however, in the case of my English section I had to go across the hall for that period. Back then I would say I hated the class, without reason I have to say. If you were to ask me, I could not provide and specific or significant evidence as to why I would feel so. I guess I had a gut feeling that it was not my subject, as it was somewhat connected with my speech difficulties as I had been in therapy up until a year before I was in a formally addressed English class. I had a strained relationship with writing up until middle school when a change began to occur. Writing would become not only an enjoyable experience in my classes, but more so an enlightening piece of work every time I set a pen to paper or began dancing around the keyboard. My perspective on the writing process has undergone a dramatic change in recent years, however my universal writing style has been impacted from countless aspects of my life both personally through my internal issues, and externally with various relationships.         Writing style is created and influenced by many of the same aspects of our lives which also develop our personalities. The way we view and interact with the world determines how we depict it in our writing. The people we know, hate, and love all may reflect in how we make arguments and use rhetoric. One of the major pieces of my writing style is reflective of how I have always been somewhat of a spaz. Whether it be poor listening, over-thinking, or losing my train of thought, I find myself coming up with quality points but struggling to create a cohesive product. I struggle with creating a smooth flow, as I tell stories they drag on and normally end without a reason. Although in many ways undesirable, this trait is a part of my unique writing style. This characteristic also aligned with my taste in books, as I had countless World War II and military books which had many pictures. It was not until middle school that I would start reading more intense literature. My disliking for the subject of english and writing carried from elementary to middle school. Nothing really changed until my second year of middle school when I was in an english class taught by a stereotypical english teacher. He wore glasses, was lanky, and somewhat tall so at first glance he fit the bill well. However, after only a brief amount of time I found that he was different from any english teacher I had before. He made the subject interesting and I admired him, which helped make me become accountable for my work in his class. Teachers previously had made school fun, but never before was english a subject I could stand, let alone be enjoy. At some point in the year we read out loud the story “Flowers for Algernon” in play format.There was a part as he was gaining intelligence that he read the book “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe. I may not have thought much of it, but Mr. Noble had brought in a copy of the book and read an excerpt to give us an idea of how high a level of writing the book was. I was greatly intrigued and after class I asked I picked up the book and briefly read the first few pages. It gave me a weird feeling, one which I had not previously felt with literature. It was challenging to understand Defoe’s writing, but I found its high level interesting. There were many aspects of reading I had not yet used which this book introduced to me, such as having to consistently look up words and use context clues to interpret certain parts. I never even really finished the book, but it gave me my first taste of classic literature which I would come to love. I left Mr. Noble’s class with a new outlook on writing which would carry into my high school years. I went through a somewhat rough patch academically in my first couple years of high school. It was not exactly that I was with the wrong people, but many of my friends and classmates were not very motivated in school. My own behavior is strongly impacted by those around me, which steadily brought down my grades from freshman to sophomore year. Really, I did not care about writing much at the time but I started to change for the better when I joined the cross country team. I had already met some friends from track, but it was really those I met through the cross country team which would make an obvious and lasting impact on me. Starting from only a few friends on the team, I was gradually introduced to the group and it became the friends I would spend the most of my time with. They were all exceptional students and I found myself self-conscious that I fit in with my friends so well but that my academic status was so different to theirs. I realized that I wanted to become a better student and after consulting my sophomore english teacher, I switched into an honors section for the second semester. The class was not incredibly difficult, but it was definitely more challenging than the english classes I had taken before. We discussed rhetoric and prose, and I found myself learning more about the world which Robinson Crusoe had briefly shown me. I learned about new concepts and techniques in writing which would set the foundation for my later building. The peak of difficulty in that class was most definitely the research paper which had to use a high number of cited sources as well as being nearly twice as long a paper as I had ever written. I researched and learned about formatting and countless details which I had no reason to care for previously. Although I did not do very well on the paper, it gave me great experience that I could work off of as I ventured forward in the boundless universe of writing. As I delved into this new unfamiliar environment of actually being a somewhat responsible student, I found myself looking at the world in different ways. My view on the world was not changing necessarily, but I was able to better articulate my thoughts and feelings both to myself and onto paper. I had time to think the summer following my sophomore year as I spent nearly everyday outdoors running training for cross country. At home on the river I observed the trees and the vibrant red cardinals and decided to write here and there and found it was satisfying to use words which were appropriate and gave meaning to the flurry of emotions with which the world conjured up in me. I was still too impatient as a writer, but I was starting to express myself more adequately. However, I had some more important things to focus on at the time. I was successful my first year of cross country so throughout that summer I trained without much thought like I deserved to do well just because I had before. It was not exactly that I was confident, but rather as if I knew I was going to do well before I even thought about how I may need to adapt and grow for a new season. This came crashing down however as my pride had blinded me from caring about maintaining myself and I had an injury. It would be for an amount of time significant enough that I would not be able to catch back up to where I felt I should be. I felt empty, as if my self worth was gutted because I couldn’t run anymore. Running provided a lot of self confidence and when the loss of this alongside personal issues with girls I started to become very sad. There was someone I was in love with who was dating another one of my friends and it was very hard to be around them as they were very affectionate. I felt strongly about her but I could not do anything and it caused me great distress. I had a choice couple friends who I could talk to about my feelings, but the majority of the time I felt that I was alone. I felt a void which was left from shallow things in my life which was not filled for a long time. At this moment I had fell into a hole, but one which would eventually lead to beautiful undiscovered parts of the writing world. When school began again I had enrolled in some more high level classes. I was surprised to find that I fit well in my AP classes, US History and Language & Composition. I These two classes both provided many opportunities to refine my writing skills, most notably being my history class. We had to write document based essays frequently to prepare us for the exam and although stressful I felt that I was gaining a lot from the process as I had to analyze documents and write out ideas in a short amount of time. I read the textbook for the class and found the book actually interesting and well written. Speaking with the teacher also helped greatly as he had background as an newspaper editor and journalist. Concurrently, my english class helped me think more abstractly and to argue effectively from all angles. We debated in my history class which I greatly enjoyed and found myself preparing better and better statements to use in such debates. I was engrossed in both classes and found that writing was no longer a nuisance, but rather a gift.  Rather than skipping in class reading, I found myself engaged in both reading and in class discussion of the books. We read the Great Gatsby around thanksgiving break and I finished the book ahead of everyone. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing was captivating and beautifly descriptive and I admired his writing the most of any author I have ever read and still to this day it is my favorite book. Alongside that, I developed further relationship problems and started to dislike myself for invalid reasons. I was not thinking clearly, but when I wrote I was able to not only feel better while I was busy doing it but afterwards as well. It allowed me to control my emotions more logically and to focus on what was important. I found more balance and meaning in my life.Writing became an outlet, whether it be a brief journal or a notebook page full of words and sentences not connected in a conventional way but together in what they were addressing. As I became more involved in school and writing, I cared less as less about not being able to run well and that some girl was not interested in me alongside other personal issues. I had found a friend in this new world to keep me company which has been the most important part of writing so far.I also read other works by F. Scott Fitzgerald and hoped that I could learn from his writing to add to my own. I realized that one of the best ways to improve my own writing was to recognize the components of writing by quality authors. From both him and other authors I gained that I should take time to express my thoughts in the best way possible so that both the reader and I understand my feelings and ideas. He had many analogies throughout the book which helped me understand more the characters and relationships which he was portraying. From that, I started realizing that I like to keep a common theme or analogy throughout my papers which helps keep me on track and to maintain a meaning throughout all of my reasoning. With this I found forged paths and knowledge on how to navigate this world of writing in which I was gradually revealing. My classes provided a great amount of reading and writing, but being part of a curriculum it had a slight feeling that it was ingenuine. I would work in the library with friends and go to the computer labs located inside for various classes, but I rarely looked through the shelves. But one day I noticed an section which caught my eye; Classics. I briefly looked over titles as I scanned the narrow section, but an odd book caught my eye. It was a pretty blue hard cover novel with a built in ribbon bookmark. For some reason the bookmark tickled my fancy and I decided to start reading. It was a book by D.H. Lawrence, an english writer from the early 20th century. The writing was similar to Defoe in that it was somewhat difficult to understand, but I enjoyed the work greatly. I ended up reading several of his books and to be honest his stories were weird and had poor flow, but I can say that the way he used metaphors and imagery was about the best I had read so far. I started writing out difficult ideas about life and relationships in different ways building off of what I had read in his books. I realized that I should try to explain thoughts in more abstract ways so they could be better understood, but also to keep it in check so that it is done correctly. I was starting to create my own paths off of those I had previously taken. By my senior year I had found a balance of school and athletics, doing well in both and preparing for the next stage of my life. Running found its way into my heart as I had always loved nature but I never been able to experience it in such a personal and energetic way as running. When you run continuously for an hour on trails almost daily, you become increasingly connected to the environment. In another fashion that it is connected to my writing, at first I was bored by the extremely long run and lacked the patience to perform well, but as time went on and I grew I understood that it is a long process which takes a significant amount of work and that you need to be thoughtful of many different things as you go through the process. I was able to sit down and focus much better as I became more accustomed to the long time spent on the trail. I cared more about details and went about writing in different fashions, reading aloud to myself and working on being less afraid of having others look over my writing. I looked at a long paper as a challenge which I could make the most of and grow from rather than a meaningless composition to please my teachers. I continued on my paths and from there I found more and more meaning to the world I was uncovering and it had only just begun.Running not only lead me to conceptual places, but physical places as well. I was doing well in school but I could not figure out what I wanted to do. I had interests, but could not find meaning in any of them which would point me towards an ideal career. Even though I did not have much an idea of what I wanted to do, I still had to decide where I would go for college. I looked into several schools, but one stuck out to me and I chose to visit. One of my original cross country friends which I had met all of my others from was going to that school. SIUe sounded somewhat generic, but when I visited it felt very special. Although far away from it, the school felt like home. The natural surroundings gave a feeling as if it were a beautiful oasis area in a dreary forest, one for reflection and growth. It was somewhere to think and express thought, a major way being through writing. It felt right and I decided to enroll. I felt alone and somewhat scared the initial weeks here but writing brought me great comfort. I dealt with new mental issues which I had never before had early on here. Not having family or loved ones to comfort me forced me to find other forms of solace. Writing was the most significant manner of this for me. The ability to convey my feelings and issues on paper allowed me to clear my mind and think clearly. I read poetry and was further interested by the works of various authors and I enjoyed collections of short stories and poetry which inspired both my personal and professional writing. I was thoroughly disappointed when I was not accepted into the honors program initially, but it forced me to reflect on my writing and focus on creating a cohesive product. After working diligently on my paper I was accepted into the program and I felt very proud of how far I had come in writing. The world of writing has brought me comfort and sense in many of my personal issues as well as providing me ways to develop and express my feelings to others. I feel my writing is very connected to me as a person and I feel as I grow so does my writing, and vice versa. Looking back upon my transition from childhood to adulthood helps me realize how much writing has helped me grow along the way and has helped to guide me in the right direction. Although I am happy to look back upon all that I have discovered so far in the world of writing, I am much happier to look forward into the limitless places left to discover while finding myself along the way.

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